Motion in Final Cut

An article by David Brooks on August 19, 2009


One of my favorite and often overlooked features in Final Cut is the ability to manipulate Photoshop files. While this won’t be a replacement for everything you could do with a program like Apple’s Motion or Adobe’s After Effects it opens the door for some amazing opportunities. If you’re interested in working on your design and motion skills but don’t want to jump into either of those programs, try this out.

step 1, load the file

Step 1: Import your Photoshop files.

To do this, click “Import” from the “File” menu in Photoshop. You’ll see the file in the “Browser” window. Once you’ve successfully imported the file you can drag it to the time line.

step 2, layer manipulation

Step 2: Layer Manipulation

When a Photoshop file is in the timeline you can double-click on it to see its layers. You can manipulate any of these layers as you would a normal video file.

Some parts of your Photoshop work may not come through. Things like layer masks and filters will typically need to be flattened out before coming into Final Cut.

step 3, PSD Manipulation

Step 3: PSD Manipulation

Sometimes you don’t need to edit every layer of the Photoshop file. In cases like this you can simply right click on the file and choose “Open in Viewer.”

When a file is opened in the viewer you can make changes to the entire file while retaining any changes you’ve made to the individual layers. Where it would have been tedious to individually align all of the layers for a smooth zoom it’s amazingly easy to accomplish when working with the file as a whole.

There’s Just One Catch

Both Photoshop and video files can be pretty large. However, for some reason (probably due to the fact that it’s a single frame of massiveness versus a set of still frames…) Photoshop files tend to slow Final Cut faster than large videos.

In working on a project awhile back I had to continually shrink the Photoshop file down in order to keep it manageable. If you’re looking at a larger scale project this is definitely something to take into consideration before beginning. If you have a sufficient amount of RAM in your machine you probably won’t have too many issues.


Have At It

I have included a ZIP file containing all the assets you’ll need for this project, as well as the Final Cut file itself. Play around with it and see how it works out. Have fun!

Download the ZIP File

“Motion in Final Cut” by David Brooks is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 United States License.

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David Brooks is the owner of the small creative studio, Northward Compass, based out of Orlando, Florida. He writes electronic and ambient music as Light The Deep, and fantasy stories about a place called Elerien.

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